Team TOTAL secures first podium for 2013
information supplied by: Total South Africa
09 March 2013
Team TOTAL secures first podium for 2013
A new year brings with it a new season, a new campaign and a new game plan in search for triumph and victory. Starting the 2013 South African Rally Championship with the always-demanding TOTAL Rally, crews and rally cars were tested in what was one of the most challenging and dramatic season-opening rallies in recent years.
With 16 stages and 171.32km of timed competition over two days in a route of 489.34km, the 30 original starters saw six dropping out of action on Day One with two crews restarting under SupeRally regulations on Day Two. The low rate of attrition and mechanical maladies resulting in early retirement from the rally is a testament to the level of skill of the engineers, mechanics and the rally crews, as well as the technology and strong build quality of these rally machines over the roughest gravel roads in South Africa. The organizers cancelled three of the 16 scheduled stages, resulting in an event even more hotly contested than was anticipated by all.
The 2013 edition of the TOTAL Rally was the 55th
year this event has been organized by the Natal Motorcycle and Car Club. With 11 of the stages run in the Scottburgh, Umzinto and Pennington areas with some of the most iconic rally stages in the country that wind through the sugarcane fields of the KwaZulu-Natal’s Soouth Coast, the event was capped off with an all-tar 1.29km Super Special Stage at the old Durban Drive-Inn at the end of Day One and also serving as the TOTAL Rally 2013’s finale on Satuday afternoon.
A dominant display from defending Champions Mark Cronje/Robin Houghton (Ford Fiesta S2000) saw them sprint to the finish on Saturday with a commanding winning margin over their rivals. Jan Habig/Robert Paisley (Ford Fiesta S2000) showed their pace to cement their second place overall position early on in the event, and maintain it despite the eager attempts from their rivals to overtake them. The final podium spot was a closely fought affair on the final three stages of the rally and was only decided when the last car’s wheels stopped turning. Jean-Pierre Damseaux/Hilton Auffray (car number #5, Team TOTAL Toyota Auris S2000 Challenge) snatched this position from Leeroy Poulter/Elvene Coetzee and also bravely fought to keep their team-mates Mohammed Moosa/Andre Vermeulen (car number #15, Team TOTAL Toyota Auris S2000 Challenge) behind them. The Two Wheel Drive Championship category and Class S1600 for front-wheel drive rally machines was won by first-time Class winners Thilo Himmel/Armand du Toit in their all-new Toyota Etios S1600’s debut event. Amazingly, Himmel took his new Etios to ninth place overall and amongst the more powerful four-wheel drive competitors.
Team TOTAL is the largest privateer rally squad contesting the 2013 South African Rally Championship, and its three-car entry into this competitive series comprises of Jean-Pierre Damseaux/Hilton Auffray, Mohammed Moosa/Andre Vermeulen and Craig Trott/Janine Lourens. Damseaux and Moosa compete in identical Toyota Auris S2000 machines in the ultra-competitive Class S2000 Challenge, while Trott flies the TOTAL South Africa flag in Class S1600 and the Two Wheel Drive Championship.
“To finish on the podium in the first event of the season is a fantastic way to start the Championship off, and a great way to thank our sponsors TOTAL South Africa for their continued support of motorsport,” said Damseaux at the Prizegiving Ceremony. “The roads this weekend were very slippery, but Saturday’s gravel stages were incredibly slippery even by KwaZulu-Natal standards. It made for interesting racing, and to have won Class S2000 Challenge in our first event with five crews potentially capable of the Class victory, and to nip past the newer Class S2000 machinery to record this overall rally podium, is such a fantastic feeling.”
Damseaux started the event on Friday morning as the first car on the road, meaning he served as road sweeper to clean the ‘racing line’ for his rivals. This disadvantage was somewhat negated by two of the six gravel stages being cancelled and that Day One’s six stages were divided into two loops of three stages which were repeated in the afternoon, with Damseaux able to benefit from the clean ‘racing line’ then too.
A fierce battle raged between himself and hard-charging team-mate Moosa, and the two crews swopped overall positions twice throughout Saturday’s eight stages. This friendly albeit ultra-competitive rivalry saw the two drivers and co-drivers pitting themselves against one another head-to-head in a daring display of gutsy driving, and it resulted in the crews outpacing their rivals and taking on the newer specification Class S2000 machinery full on.
Said Moosa: “We lost over 30 minutes on the final gravel stage of the rally, which was the penultimate stage of the event. We went wide into a corner, hit a ditch and the car rolled over onto its roof. We were just not able to roll the car back onto its wheels by ourselves, and we went in search of spectators to assist us. We eventually got the car righted and finished the stage. Unfortunately, we dropped from fourth overall and second in the Class S2000 Challenge fight with J-P [Damseaux] to 26th
overall… However, we can take away many positives from this weekend’s event: our pace was up there with even the fastest Class S2000 crews and we set a string of top five overall stage times. We look forward to Round Two of the season next month!”
Durbanite Craig Trott and new co-driver Janine Lourens pushed their Team TOTAL Toyota RunX S1600 (car number #61) to its maximum engine revs and top speed as they jostled for position in the Two Wheel Drive Championship category and Class S1600. Starting the event on the defensive as reigning category Champions and local favourites, the Durbanite was used as the yardstick by which his rivals measured their pace and performance. ‘Mr Consistency’ took up the challenge, and showed his speed that has brought him eight national Class Championships.
“It was a trying and a very testing weekend for us,” said Trott. “We had a problem on stage 10 when we struck something that we think could be a tree stump on the side of the road that shot us into the air and damaged our car’s front end. We miraculously lost only 30 seconds in that moment, and we were then forced to knuckle down to some serious rallying to keep our fourth place in Class S1600. It is a very intensely competitive Class this year.”
TOTAL South Africa’s Brand and Dealer Communications Manager Nadia Vosloo said: “It was an excellent TOTAL Rally, and we are extremely proud of J-P Damseaux for his fantastic third position overall. It is the just reward for the hard work of his team and the rest of Team TOTAL. We feel this is his year, and with his new co-driver Hilton Auffray at his side, it will be an exciting season ahead. The event was well run and organized, with all plans working perfectly. Durban came out in full support of this year’s rally with their petrolheads and motorsport enthusiasts enjoying the thrilling action. It is this enthusiasm and passion we support too.”
Team TOTAL is next in action at the Sasol Rally in Nelspruit, Mpumalanga on 19 – 20 April.
For more information on the TOTAL Rally, please visit http://www.total.co.za
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Note to editors: Please do not refer to TOTAL South Africa as Total SA, as this refers to the Total Group with its head office in Paris, France. TOTAL South Africa refers to the company in South Africa and its operations in South Africa.
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